Back to School: How Artists Balance Family and Career

MaysaThe words “back to school” carry various definitions depending on the role of the person who invokes them. For parents, it’s that time of year when they reclaim their homes and their light bills decrease, but the task of back to school shopping must be completed. For students, it’s the part of the summer they’ve been dreading since August 1st and educators start looking towards retirement as summer comes to an end. However, for artists and musicians, this time of year brings on a rush of emotions, as the need to balance family and career becomes a little more pronounced for nine months or so.

Managing a family is hard enough; you throw in recording, performing and the demands of record labels and you have an unenviable task that many are juggling in hopes to master. Oftentimes, artists rely on partners and family members to help with the children when the road calls. That was the case for Maysa, who relied heavily on her mother for support with her son before she lost her a few years ago. As her son begins his sophomore year in high school, with the goal of being a musician, she takes of advantage of technology, often using FaceTime to chat while on the road promoting her latest album Back 2 Love. Their conversations are becoming increasingly music-related, as he picks her brain about certain things she’s learned through the years and looks to apply it to his future career.

Carmen RodgersSinger/songwriter Carmen Rodgers’ daughter just began her sophomore year at Howard University, and Rodgers has noticed a shift in her role as mother, she says. “Now that she is away, her needs are different. She needs me more now as a mentor, guide, and sounding board. I’ve raised her. Now it is my job to help her navigate this world as a young adult away from home. So, I continue with my day to day life, work and travel and just make sure I am available when she needs me”. Because Rodgers was on the road promoting Stargazer a majority of the summer, their time this summer was limited, so they spent the last few days of their summer at the beach, bonding over good food and movies. Rodgers advises other parents to cherish the time with their children, because the time between the first day of kindergarten and second year in college came much faster than she ever expected.

Time at the beach seems to be a great way to end the summer. That’s what Aja and Fatin Dantzler of Kindred the Family Soul did with their children between gigs and hosting the 2nd Annual Kindred the Family Reunion, which was a community-based event in Philadelphia which allowed many families to come together and cap off the summer safely. Raising such a large family and gigging as much as they do, the Dantzlers rely heavily on grandmothers and aunts, along with a network of family and friends to pitch in with their children while they tour.

Jeff-Bradshaw-06-16-12Also in Philadelphia, Jeff Bradshaw has devised a schedule that allows him to maximize time with his children; he plays festivals and shows on the weekends, leaving the week to spend quality time with his children. Having one daughter skip a grade now puts Bradshaw in the position of having two daughters in their senior year, with their eyes on college, so look for Bradshaw to be in a city near you for many weekends to come as he prepares for college tuition. On the other end of the spectrum, his son is preparing for 1st grade this year and stands nearly a foot taller than most six-year-olds, which leaves the Bradshaw household with nightmares about future grocery bills. Potential costs aside, Bradshaw calls fatherhood “beautiful” and thanks God for healthy, smart children. The secret to his back to school shopping is finding deals online and scouring the outlets for the best prices while out on the road promoting Jeff Bradshaw and Friends. He TimothyBloomwants the DMV area to meet him in Bethesda, MD to further discuss discount shopping at his birthday celebration September 5th at Bethesda Blues & Jazz Supper Club.

Grammy-award winning singer/songwriter Timothy Bloom sings the praises for the technology that allows him to be in constant contact with his three young children. He’s become an expert with Skype and FaceTime, because he’s constantly using the apps to see his children while on the road and once he’s home, they’re spending all of the time possible with Daddy. However, he had to start the back-to-school adjustment of altering bed times and waking them up earlier to prepare them for school. Not to mention, he gives them math work to ensure they’re ahead of the game when the school year starts.

The stories are endless, the love boundless and the sacrifices parents make to create better opportunities for their children, limitless.

Schools back in session.

—Al-Lateef Farmer

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